The Lost Salt Gift of Blood by Alistair MacLeod
a collection of short stories
Nova Scotia book for the Canadian Book Challenge
This collection of short stories gives such a wonderful history of life on the sea in Nova Scotia. The hard life of fishermen and coal miners, and the sacrifice and conflicts between the generations are told in brutal honesty and with a style that makes you feel you have lived this life.
Maybe it is just that I see a version of these conflicts here in the Maritimes today. I have neighbours whose husbands have left for the oilfields of Alberta because they can not support their family here. I have colleagues who never see their grandchildren because their own children have moved 'away' and only get a visit once a year. The life here is filled with people who leave, and the people who stay, and the conflict and unhappiness that results.
One story tells the point of view of the mother who wants her son to carry on her family tradition of fishing, and can't understand her daughters who left and married well in the Boston states. Her husband wants more for his son than the life of fishing that he has held. The conflict over the old way and education and the struggle between them.
Then the reverse, where the parents have moved away to make a better life for their children, sacrificing everything for their education, and the children who don't want that life, and miss the old ways.
The conflict between parents and children, the old ways and the new, poverty and trying to better a life. While these stories are set in the late 60s early 70s, life and the challenges haven't changed at all. The fish aren't here anymore, the coal mines are shut down, and there is always some new catastrophe in the economy. MacLeod writes beautifully, putting so much in few words, and I enjoyed this collection of stories as a history of my region, and as a commentary on how life hasn't changed all that much. They are sad stories, but not depressing, and with a twinge of hope in people accepting their fate.